Looking for a new kind of candidate

January 17, 1999|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder/Tribune

As we, the American people, approach the new millennium, we face many troubling questions. One is: How can we, as a nation, be sure that we have spelled "millennium" correctly? The easiest way is to remember the old poem that we were all taught back in elementary school:

Two "n"s and two "l"s

You've spelled it quite well

One "l" or one "n"

You're a big fat stupid hen

But an even bigger question facing us, as we approach the year 2000, is: Can we, as a nation, get past the divisiveness, the bitterness, the sliminess -- in short, the Jerry-Springer-ness that plagued us throughout 1998? It will not be easy. The American public is still deeply divided, according to a recent Gallup Poll showing that:

* 72 percent of the public agrees with the statement "President Clinton has been punished enough."

* 71 percent of the public agrees with the statement "President Clinton has not been punished enough."

* 73 percent of the public agrees with the statement "The Grand Canyon was created by a race of fierce, prune-eating hamsters from space."

These poll results remind us, as if we needed reminding, that the public cannot be trusted to decide any issue more complex than "eat in" vs. "take out." That is why we need leadership, defined in the United States Constitution as "white men in dark suits, and possibly Elizabeth Dole." Even as you read these words, such men are gearing up for the 2000 presidential campaign -- a campaign that promises to deliver all the drama and high-voltage, spine-tingling excitement that is evoked by the phrase "Lamar Alexander."

That's right: Lamar -- a man who lights up a room the way a Zippo lights up Mammoth Cave -- is one of the leading Republicans now "testing the waters." Other potential GOP timbers include George Herbert Walker Thurston Crumpet Bush Jr., Steve "51 Years Without Blinking" Forbes, somebody named "John" and the late Calvin Coolidge.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the big news is the official formation of a campaign organization for -- get ready -- Al Gore. This should come as a big surprise to anybody who has spent his or her entire life locked inside a meat freezer, because Al has basically been running for president since he emerged from the womb, clutching, in his tiny hand, a position paper on breast-feeding. Al's biggest drawback is that he appears stiff in public, to the point where sometimes, when he's carrying out his primary constitutional duty as vice president -- which is to stand behind the president and look earnest while the president issues his daily apology to the nation -- Al will look down and see beavers gnawing on his shins.

Al's main rival for the Demo-cratic presidential nomination is former Sen. Bill Bradley, a man who, in terms of his ability to fire up a crowd, makes Al look like K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Other Democrats testing the waters include Gary "Why Not?" Hart, somebody named "John" and Dick Gephardt, who has had over 600 gallons of Rogaine injected into his forehead in a so-far-unsuccessful attempt to grow eyebrows.

So there you have the main contenders in the coming presidential race, a k a CharismaFest 2000. During the next year, each of these men will try to develop a Vision For The Future, defined as "around $40 million in cash." They will use some of this vision to pay for polls so they can find out what their views are; they will use the rest for TV commercials explaining these views in terms that are understandable to the average American voter or cocker spaniel ("Vote for John. You like John. John has same views as you. See John with family! See John wear dark suit! John very good. Other man very bad. Remember: John.").

At this point, the question that is on your mind, if you care about the future of this nation, is: "Wouldn't 'The Fierce Prune- Eating Hamsters from Space' be an excellent name for a rock band?" I think we can all agree that it would. I think we can also agree that America needs a new kind of presidential candidate -- not another droning, wingtipped, intern-groping, lip-biting, political clone who can't burp without putting out a press release; but a normal person, a regular guy, a plain-talking "Joe Sixpack" type of individual who has spent his life working in the real world, developing honest calluses on his hands and honest sweat stains in both of his armpits from toiling away at the harsh but vital job of producing one humor column per week.

Does such a person exist? To answer that question, in the next few months I will personally conduct an intensive nationwide search, traveling, if necessary, to all four corners of my office. Let us hope, as Americans, that I find this unique individual; and let us further hope that if I do find him, I can persuade him to run for president and accept our contributions, preferably in cash. I will keep you posted on my efforts, so you should monitor this space. Remember: Dave.

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